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Campus Initiatives - University Classroom Observation Program

The University Classroom Observation Program (UCOP) brings middle and high school teachers to the UMaine campus to observe instruction in university science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses at all levels.

Group picture of UCOP teachers Spring 2014

UCOP 2014



UCOP 2015


UCOP2016UCOP 2016

We are now accepting applications for UCOP 2017!

Apply today at

Benefits to UMaine

  • Document the learner-centered nature of STEM instruction
  • Information is used to provide targeted professional development for faculty

UCOP teachers working and discussing observationsBenefits to teachers

  • Observe instruction in university STEM courses and learn to use observation protocols
  • Reflect on issues of teaching and learning with colleagues
  • Experience objective evaluation of classrooms and teachers
  • Get a realistic view of the level of rigor expected in college

This program offers a reciprocal exchange between the university and K-12 communities.  University graduate students and faculty are conducting research in middle and high school classrooms and UCOP offers teachers an opportunity to participate in research that benefits UMaine.

How does it work?

  • Faculty permission is obtained for teachers to observe classrooms.
  • Teachers spend 3 days in both February and April on campus learning to use observation protocols, observing classes, and participating in group discussion sessions.
    • During the 2014 spring semester 20 teachers observed 51 UMaine STEM courses in 13 different departments.
  • Results are analyzed and shared with faculty in one-on-one meetings after observations.
  • Results from observations and discussions with faculty guide the design of future professional development sessions for STEM instructors at UMaine.

Observation Protocol

Teachers primarily use the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM during their observations.  This protocol is used to document what the instructor and students are doing in two-minute increments throughout the classroom period.

The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): a New Instrument to Characterize University STEM Classroom Practices Michelle Smith, Francis Jones, Sarah Gilbert, and Carl Wieman, CBE-Life Sciences Education, Vol 12(4), pp. 618-627 (2013).

For more information also see this resource page about COPUS.

Two papers about the findings from the University Classroom Observation Program have been published:

Lewin J, Vinson EL, Stetzer MR, Smith MK.  A campus-wide investigation of clicker implementation: The status of peer discussion in STEM classes. CBE-Life Sciences Education.  2016, 15:1-12.

Smith MK, Vinson EL, Smith JA, Lewin JD, Stetzer MR.  A Campus-Wide Study of STEM Courses: New Perspectives on Teaching Practices and Perceptions. CBE-Life Sci Educ.  2014, 13:624-635. 


What will UMaine do with the observation data?

  • Observation data will benefit professional development at UMaine
  • Faculty can use observation data in tenure and promotion portfolios


Comments from participating teachers

“I feel that the many observations helped me to think about and refine my own teaching practices. I was also grateful for an observation of my own classroom by someone outside of my school. Thanks again for letting me be a part of this fun and enriching experience.”

“Beyond reflection of my own practices, I enjoy the conversations with peers about what effective teaching looks and feels like”

“I get to see various styles of instruction in a university setting where my students are most likely to attend”


Comments from participating faculty member Picture of faculty member, Brian Olsen

“I feel I have a lot to gain from interacting more with K-12 teachers. In addition to their more intensive pedagogical training than my own, K-12 teachers are decades ahead of universities in implementing active learning styles.”  Brian Olsen, Assistant Professor of Biology and Ecology  

“It was very helpful hearing the K-12 teachers’ impressions of the college courses and hearing the perspective they had from their own students.”


For more information about this program, please contact Erin Vinson at



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